I think November is probably my least favourite month of the year. Almost everything about it is an inconvenience.

Take, for example, the sunshine: usually I very much like sunshine and I particularly like being outdoors in it, but November sunshine is the worst of all of the kinds of sunshine. The sun hangs so low in the sky that, even when it’s a nice day (especially when it’s a nice day), it’s oppressive. One cannot look into the sky because there is the blinding sunshine, creeping just under the brow and into the eyes. A peaked cap will make no difference – there is not enough distance between where one wants to look and where the sun sits to be comfortable. One is therefore obliged to be blinded by the impression of the sun, burned repeatedly into the retina, or to stare at the ground to avoid the very same – and no-one goes into the countryside, with or without a gun, to spend an afternoon looking at the floor, do they?

It is not just the light of the sun, however. Its very warmth is most inconvenient in November, above all other months. It is too cold to persist in wearing shorts and T-shirt for reasonable periods in exposed farmland, so out come the trousers and jacket, still unwashed from last year. Two hours in November sunshine however and the jacket cannot be discarded fast enough when one returns to one’s vehicle, sopping wet from perspiration and wishing that it were either much warmer, or much colder, but not this!

The list goes on. Driving is more dangerous when one cannot see properly through blinding sunshine. Shooting is near impossible when the spots – impressions of the sun – burned onto the retina cause every bird to disappear into a green-blue haze just as one focuses upon it.

As if to emphasize the arrival of my least favourite time of year (and don’t mistake me – December and January are two of my favourite months, provided they’re properly cold) the peewits and golden plover, those harbingers of doom – all 386,729,448 of them – have arrived on the farms and, as appears to be customary, scared all of the wood pigeons away. They milled around impressively whilst I walked the boundaries of the second farm I visited today and practically dive-bombed me at times, whereas, with one exception, I didn’t see a single pigeon within 100 yards.

The trouble is this: when, every time one sees a bird (i.e. a wood pigeon) and then pauses, stock still, to see if it will approach or fly anywhere in range, discovers it will not and ends by congratulating oneself on exercising a pleasing degree of restraint by not letting the shootbangstick get overexcited, it’s catching. Do it enough times and then, when a bird actually in long-but-shootable range pops out of the hedgerow in front, one simply ends up staring at it, wide-eyed and a bit “gah-gah”, wondering whether it really is close enough to have a go at and… oh – it’s gone

One miss at a distant bird followed – well I wasn’t going to make that mistake again, was I? – allowing me to add one of the Gamebore Regal Game cases to my 16-gauge collection, but I returned home with nothing to show for the trip, except a peculiar weariness.

I blame the sunshine myself. It makes everything look shiny and strange and gives a peculiar sense of “distance from the world”, which I find very unpleasant. Did I mention that November was my least favourite month?

No patterning today. We do occasionally get deliveries on Sunday now, about which I’m rather pleased (the shops have discovered that people actually like to have new things every day of the week and will pay for the privilege – if only the NHS could discover the same about people getting ill at weekends…) but the patterning paper didn’t turn up either way. There’s a huge number of cartridges stacked up on my shelf now and I need to get through testing them, but how much of that gets done before the weather closes in on us remains to be seen.

Trusting My Instincts

A final thought: I should have trusted my instincts. In writing up various pattern and performance tests for the 9mm gun recently, I entertained the idea that the #6 (Italian) cartridge might perhaps have some utility. Looking back at the patterns, I think my initial gut instinct was correct: if #6 and #5 are too large for the .410, then they are certainly too large for the 9mm. It may simply be that the gun is incapable killing any UK quarry humanely, but if it is, the shot size has to be smaller. Energetics aside, you still have to hit the target with one or more pellets and the number of “gaps” showing up in those 9mm patterns – even the good ones – is pretty shocking.